Oakland Considering Requiring Landlords to Retrofit Vulnerable Apartment Buildings

Posted December 21, 2018, under Blog

Oakland is ready to get serious about earthquake safety.

The city is considering passing new legislation that would require hundreds of vulnerable apartment structures to be retrofitted by owners.

Like Los Angeles, the mandate would require the seismic retrofit of soft-story residential buildings that are multiunit, wood-frame structures with a weak first floor, that have been built before 1991.

Like we saw with the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, soft-story structures are much more likely to collapse during an earthquake. The area likewise experienced a similar earthquake with 1989’s Loma Prieta.

“You look at photos of (San Francisco’s) Marina District after ’89 — quite a few buildings looked like three stories when they used to be four,” Thor Matteson, a structural engineer of the Bay Area told the SF Chronicle.

In Oakland alone, it’s estimated that some 2,800 soft-story buildings have been identified as seismically unsafe structures.

“If we don’t increase the integrity of the buildings, not only will we have loss of life, but massive displacement,” City Councilman Dan Kalb said. “We’re not prepared for that. No city is prepared for that.”

Other major cities in the Bay Area like San Francisco and Berkley are several years ahead of Oakland in regard to mandatory seismic retrofits. San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2013, requiring landlords to complete their retrofits by 2020 and Berkley passed their seismic retrofit legislation in 2014.

Los Angeles likewise started its retrofitting program in 2016, with the goal of having all vulnerable residential buildings retrofitted for seismic safety by 2024.

This new mandate is especially important for Oakland since the city sits on top of the active Hayward Fault. In the past, there have been 5 massive quakes along the fault line, occurring at 140-year intervals. The last major earthquake happened 150 years ago, meaning the fault is due for another seismic eruption.

“San Francisco and Berkeley are doing 5,000 of these right now,” said David Bonowitz, a structural engineer who advised Oakland officials on the law. “It means the contractors and engineers are trained, and there’s a good market with lots of supply.”

Now more than ever it’s important to be proactive about earthquake preparation and safety. Julian De La Torre is an expert in Los Angeles foundation inspection, foundation repair and foundation replacement.

Julian’s company, Julian Construction, has inspected over 30,000 structures, working with engineering firms and local departments of building & safety. The company has done more foundation repair and earthquake retrofitting in Los Angeles than any other company in the area over the last five years.

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